Labour to force parliamentary votes to protect families and businesses

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Labour is set to force parliamentary votes calling on the government to “secure Britain’s economy” by protecting family finances, supporting jobs and businesses and helping those excluded from support schemes.

During the ‘opposition day’ in the House of Commons on Tuesday, the party will use its debates to table a motion on providing support to families and to demand action on securing jobs and protecting businesses.

Anneliese Dodds has said that coronavirus forced the closure of the economy but it had already been “crashed” by the Conservatives. She criticised Tory counterpart Rishi Sunak’s approach to the economy during the crisis.

“The Conservatives’ irresponsible decisions since have resulted in Britain having the worst economic crisis of any major economy,” the Shadow Chancellor commented ahead of the parliamentary debates.

“Britain can’t afford to wait any longer for the government to act. We need to secure our economy by supporting businesses and families through the crisis.

“Today, we call on the Conservatives to back Labour’s plan to rebuild stronger, with a relentless focus on jobs, delivering growth across the entire UK, supporting our high streets to thrive and protecting family finances.”

Dodds will open the first of the two opposition day debates taking place on Tuesday. She will demand U-turns on the planned cut to Universal Credit, the council tax hike being forced on councils and the public sector pay freeze.

The debate follows an appeal from Keir Starmer in January for Boris Johnson to properly support local authorities and abandon plans to force council tax rises, as he told the public that Labour would be “the party of the family”.

The government announced last year that English local authorities would be allowed to raise council tax by an extra 5%, including 3% for adult social care. Labour highlighted then that the hike was over twice the rate of inflation.

The Labour leader described it as “absurd” that local government in England will be forced – due to funding pressures – to “hike up council tax” when “millions are worried about the future of their jobs and how they will make ends meet”.

Dodds will also reiterate on Tuesday the call made by Starmer last week for the Chancellor to introduce a ‘British recovery bond’ and to “back British entrepreneurs” by providing more funding for new businesses start-up loans.

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson will open the second debate, demanding the protection of jobs, “breathing space” for businesses and support for those excluded from existing support. Labour will call on Sunak to:

 

  • “Extend the furlough scheme for as long as public health restrictions are in place and make it smarter by linking it to training and preventing employer abuse;
  • “Extend business rates relief for at least another six months;
  • “Extend the temporary 5% reduced rates of VAT for three months after restrictions are lifted or another six months – whichever is later;
  • “Back Britain’s small businesses by converting the government-backed Bounce Back Loans to a student-loans style arrangement so they only start repayments once they’re growing again;
  • “Confirm the fourth self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) grant will be paid at 80 per cent of pre-crisis profits;
  • “Extend eligibility for the SEISS to anyone with a 2019-20 tax return; and
  • “Fix the gaps in the Chancellor’s wage support schemes to support the millions who have been excluded from support since the outset of the crisis.”

 

The votes follow the warning issued by Labour earlier this month that firms will be hit by a £50bn “bombshell” when April brings tax deferral costs and VAT rises alongside the end of the business rates holiday, furlough and other support.

The party calculated a cumulative impact of £50bn – including £34bn in VAT deferrals affecting over a quarter of businesses, £3.3bn in monthly support through the furlough scheme and £9.6bn in business rate payments.

The party has called on the government to introduce a “smart” furlough scheme extension, past the current end date of April 30th, to protect jobs as long as coronavirus restrictions remain in place. The TUC has also called for its extension.

The debates also follow a speech made by the Labour leader last week, during which he set out his vision for the economy and described the upcoming Budget expected on March 3rd as a “fork in the road”.

“We can go back to the same insecure and unequal economy that’s been so cruelly exposed by the virus, or we can seize this moment, and go forward to a future that’s going to look utterly unlike the past,” Starmer said.

“That choice will define the Budget. That choice will define the next election. We know what the Conservatives say they want to do to: they want to ‘build back’. But I don’t want to go back. We can’t return to business as usual.”

Starmer used the speech to emphasise the need for a “new partnership” between government and business that “tackles inequality, invests in the future and builds a more secure and prosperous economy”.

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